Essays and Articles

Antique Furniture Restoration Process

Friday, June 09, 2017

When working with unrestored furniture of age there are always a multitude of 'quirks' typically encountered that have arisen through general use over the course of their considerably long life.
While many of these unique markings and textures combine to give them their charm and patina, sometimes other more drastic tales are told – shrinking, bowing and splitting of wood over time, past visitations from wood eating insects, ink spills, and even previous ‘do-it-yourself’ attempts and crude repairs.

With these hurdles as a given, and within the more-or-less standardized forms of traditional oriental furniture construction, we are able to remedy most blemishes with a variety of techniques that have been developed and refined over the past forty years of Kazari's dealings in Japanese and Chinese antiques.

In short, our processes often include the following

- Cleaning - The careful removal of old finishes that have become soiled by a variety of factors including sun discoloration, damp storage in their original settings, or centuries of over exposure to smoke and soot. Other times we simply clean of the dirt from the originally unfinished timber. If we don’t need to do this we may also leave them as they are. Sometimes just a wax can be all it takes to breathe life back into a piece, allowing the old patina and history to shine through once more.

- Repolishing – we apply organic finishes that rehydrate and revive the timber's warm aged tones. Often several layers are applied and ‘cut back’ between coats to level any bumps and build-ups of the finish materials.

- General restoration- During this stage and before the final finish coat, we also fill any holes present, mend cracks, insert new strips of wood into overly shrunken fissures, and damaged sections and corners may be also replaced with matching and appropriately aged timbers drawn from our extensive restoration stockpile.

- Metal fitting replacement - Handles, lockplates, drawer-pulls, and hinges are checked and replaced where necessary, drawing from a vast assorted collection of spare parts acquired over many years by Kazari.

- Waxing - Lastly the pieces are waxed and buffed – leveling out tones, giving a uniform sheen, and giving supplementary moisture and waterproofing to the timbers for the next few decades of their lives.

A typical late Taisho or early Showa period chest of drawers in its unrestored state and looking a little worse for wear after almost 100 years of daily use...


 

 

 

Crude original repair on the drawer corner of the unrestored chest, this will be removed and patched properly to blend in with the surrounding area


 


Ouch….An even rougher past repair to one of the other drawer fronts…yet another of the ‘quirks’ typically encountered during the restoration process

 

 

The damaged drawer corner from the first image, now neatly patched using paulownia wood of a similar age to the surrounding wood - notice the difference in colour between the newly sanded patch and the surrounding age and soot darkened area still to be cleaned


 

 

 

In the process of repolishing to rehydrate the wood and to level out and enrich the colours of the aged surfaces


 

 

 

Finished patched drawer corner, now toned to match the rest of the cleaned and polished drawer front


 

 

 

The restored piece, cleaned, repaired, repolished and waxed and ready to last another 100 years


 


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